searching through the Harvey rubble: finding gratitude in the #coalsoncleanup

we drove through the neighborhood like nothing had happened, the white concrete bright under the hot texas sun. house after house looked familiar, at least from the outside, each manicured limestone in its place among outer walls. the only difference were the memories that lay on the curb.  our hearts burned at the stake, through our bodies, and into the ground.


it’s hard to imagine that just a few days ago the view was somewhat different.




my parents have moved several times: from texas, to panama, to alabama, back to texas, then on to western germany. they traveled europe with us kids in tow, pilgrimaging through the countryside. then returned to texas, only to find themselves venturing to ohio years later.


in ’96 they finally returned to their native state once and for all, but I would be remiss not to mention they have moved several times within texas even since then. when they landed in weston lakes five years ago, this was declared their retirement home. my sister Krista helped build their dream, and it has hosted many memories since then.


needless to say, home is definitely where the heart is.



so as Harvey blasted ashore, and the cold waters rose around them, my parents made the brave decision to wade across the street to a neighbor’s house, where they could be transported to a rally point for pick up.


the days following were frantic with worry, as 50 years of marriage and memories and love slowly submerged under the muddy pond that began to form within their walls. we all did what we could, where we could, but no one was able to reach the abandoned house, drenched in the torrential rains of Harvey.



when we finally made it through, my father, Les Coalson, already had a tactical plan for recovery, employing his sons first to help hammer out planks, pull up soggy carpets, and begin to dry out the foundation of the heart of our family. always in inspiration to us girls, even as his thoughts turned to ensuring my mother wasn’t laden with grief, his passion to pull through was unyielding. the ultimate commander of his flooded home, he safeguarded us all from over-extension, yet spent countless hours with sore muscles completing the most urgent tasks. he has always been, and will always be, the best patriarch of our family. a man whose heart is bigger than texas, one who provides us with knowledge and capability, and sets us free to make our own mistakes.



the sommelier (Gabriel Howe), embellished in sweat and dripping musty puddles onto the ground, pulled planks from the concrete at an extraordinary rate, like a french carousel that continuously orbits through the center of town. his determination and diligence still amazes me, his focus squarely on the task at hand, his knees scathed by the hours spent kneeling on the flooded terrain. he came into our family not knowing the deep world in which we dive, yet he has always given his whole self to understand the connections which we have, and somehow keeps his head above water through it all.



Alex Matthey, a teenager beginning his final year of high school, weathered through all the directions from those around him, pulling warped wood, sodden carpets, moving furniture, and whatever else was asked of him. he takes on more than he should as his age, and rarely complains. I can’t wait to see how he effects our world. my intellectual, compassionate nephew, and a fellow leo, will turn out an amazing man, y’all.



conferring with my father on strategy, Bryan Matthey kept the sense of urgency high, ensuring all workers were on task. he also placed fans and used wet vacs, removed floor boards and organized cleanup gear. when new helpers arrived, he was able to direct where most impact was needed. a master of oversight, he ensured every undertaking was complete and on-point, a signifying aspect of his persona, one who can lead through any situation, heart-breaking or not. he is a gem of our family, a diamond in the rough who isn’t thanked enough for his tenacity.



strangers neighbors new friends from weston lakes began to show up to remove debris from this crying, soggy home.



an ally of my older sister Krista, Jared Kohler, resolutely cleared debris from room to room, offering his time in unfamiliar territory as only a kind coach to my younger nephew would. thanks to this mish-mash clean-up crew, in less than 24 hours of our return to my parents’ heart and soul, we were drying out and cutting drywall. how can we ever repay this texan kindness?



thanks to Art Schmitt, as much caring and a gentle soul as family could be, and an expert in reconstruction, we knew the exact recipe for a Harvey rinse. whether it was bleach or vinegar, our supplies never ran out, and the sheetrock was removed at precise levels.


my parents will have an extra place to store the collections of their lives, and thanks to his girl lady Debi Schroen, my mother has emotional support to lean on. these are the types of friends who stick with you through thick and thin, transcend aspersions, ride through rising flood waters, and bring bourbon to boot. this is true family, y’all.



brothers Mark and Sherman Wooten, who were born handymen, graced with a father so enveloped with light and love he is ever present in the air around them, took charge of the most difficult mucking involving power tools, and brought smiles and happiness to a scene of loss and disarray.


a welcome comfort to our numbness and grief, these brothers and Saint Faustina parish friends elevated the vibration of the house, adding electric, positive connectivity to those around them while doing some of the hardest work imaginable.



Krista Schroen, my tireless and relentless sister, inundated with false media flooding predictions of her own home, provided midnight pleas for charitable organization clean-up efforts for our childhood memories, kept in clammy hutches and antique bureaus. she also vigorously assisted in removing debris and insulation, sitting on the wet concrete, which only days before was submerged in the swollen creek waters fed by the raging Brazos. because she built the home in which my parents are now evacuated from, her extra layer of emotion and guilt and cross-to-bear is something we will never comprehend. she is, and always will be, one of the most remarkable women I know. a survivor, a giver, yet a delicate, guarded soul somewhat fossilized by the world around her.



after working five straight days at Methodist West, delivering babies and praying in the chapel during breaks, my meek sister Karen Matthey did not rest, but came to the aid of our family, as only her loving nature would. she began organizing the packing of my parents memories, including heirloom Czech bibles owned by my great grandmother. she cleared remaining debris and drywall, and arranged for supplies to be fully stocked. in addition to all of this, she has lovingly housed my parents in her guest room, fed them, and has been a buttress to their initial onslaught of emotion. an admirable woman, my angelic sister has always given without expecting anything in return, her heart leading her every move. I will always aspire to be as beneficent as she.



bringing meals and snacks, finding desperate supplies, and loading my car with end of the day, well-deserved, texan beers was my task the past few days.  yesterday I found myself packing up the reminders of my childhood overseas, saving memories of shiny figurines collected through time and forgotten in my adulthood.


I intricately and securely packed each relic with care, bubble-wrapping the stories laden within each porcelain marionette. thoughts swirling through my overactive brain and aching back- my sense of wanting to do more than physically allowed- relentlessly whipped my heart and bled into my soul. I did what I could, but still felt overwhelming guilt for not doing more. the urgency is widespread, yet the road is long.




there are countless more to thank, including my youngest sister Emily Coalson, and my extended family in california, who founded a go-fund me campaign to assist my parents in immediate efforts. (more on this in the next update.)




we will rebuild.  we will survive. Because that’s who we are.



it’s been a year since last week. we all deserve a rest. go take care of yourselves, y’all.


24 thoughts

  1. So well written. I felt the emotions and wished I could have been there to help. Thanks for keeping us updated. Having experienced Katrina with a dear friend, I know the long road ahead. Our thoughts and prayers and spirits are with all of you and those whom Harvey has attempted to destroy. We are so proud of all of you and amazed at the courage, strength, endurance, determination that you are modeling. You are true inspiration! Love you all.

  2. Thank you, Bryana, for providing us with such an emotional and well written narrative about the life changing experience your parents are currntly going through. Rita and I certainly have somewhat of a feeling of what they are experiencing. In 1998 when we were living in Biloxi, Mississippiwe had a tree cut the house in two that we were living in. The feeling of helplessness when faced with what to do to find new shelter and what to do with our personal belongings was almost overwhelming. We got throgh it and we know Les and Patsy will do the same. Wish we could help more, but we will continue to for them as well as the population affected in the area. God bless you all. We love you all.

  3. Bryana is our family chronicler, her writing raw and unfiltered, capturing the emotions of the moment. Her empathy for others is evident in the fact that she was at her post despite a ruptured disc that requires surgery in 10 days, that she has a six year old daughter to care for, a new job that started on 1 Sep.

    Her mother, my gentle wife of 50 years, Patsy, coordinated actions with her daughters while recovering from the physical exertion placed on her failed ankle and foot surgery, two knee surgeries and three back surgeries…clothing, bed stuffs, food, pet care, and a host of other items managed via numerous phone calls, texts, emails and hand signals to daughters who understood her every want.

    Friends, family and strangers all brought together by helping hands and prayer. Thank you, All.

  4. As I commented on your Dad’s post, you all are in thoughts and prayers. Your strong bonds of love and bodies and spirits are fueled by the Holy Spirit . So very sorry for the loss but grateful for your safety. Seeing God in this difficult journey is your precious gift. You are also so blessed in having each other. Sorry we can’t be of help! Keep writing and healing!❣

  5. So good to get an update on Les, Patsy, and the family. You’re all a strong family with much of your strength drawn from you ever present faith plus pure personal strength. Stay strong & Gid bless

  6. You don’t know us but we have been friends of your parents for many years back when they went to Prince of Peace. Our hearts (and prayers) go out to your parents. also to the whole family I read the emotional struggle this is for all of you. Thankful you are keeping us who love them updated on their recovery tasks.

  7. It makes my heart hurt for you all, and to take solace that I know you all are together as a strong family! Love you all.

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